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Interview with John Ellison Conlee

He has appeared on Broadway in The Constant Wife and 1776, but it was for his role as Dave Bukatinsky in The Full Monty that John Ellison Conlee received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations. His other stage credits include The Bald Soprano, The Butter and Egg Man, Measure for Measure, Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen from Verona, and Threepenny Opera at Williamstown. On television, he has appeared on "Law & Order," "Spin City," and "Third Watch."

Conlee now joins Katie Finneran, Logan Marshall-Green and Denis O'Hare in Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Greg Kotis' new comedy Pig Farm, which is directed by John Rando. During performances, Conlee and I sat down to speak about the show, as well as his career.

Nick Orlando:   You not only have performed on stage, but on television as well. How would you say the two compare?

John Ellison Conlee    The live audience, which of course you get in some television situations, is the major difference. It's a huge difference in terms of coordinating both what you are doing with their response, but also the energy you get.

NO:  What did you like best about The Full Monty?

JEC:   Probably the camaraderie with the guys. It was a story about male friendship and we became really good friends in the process. I enjoy those friendships to this day. It was a wonderful story and I loved the music and all the people I was working with.

John Ellison Conlee in Pig Farm
Joan Marcus
NO:  You are currently performing in Pig Farm. What was the rehearsal process like?

JEC:   It's a new play, which is different than rehearsing something that has been done before. As a result, there was a lot of experimentation. We did a lot of different things and we explored in some directions that, ultimately, we didn't go. It was really interesting; you got to see all of the possibilities of the piece. Other than that, it was a normal rehearsal process, time-wise and all of that.

NO:  Very technical?

JEC:   Not so technical, with the exception of fighting. There is a lot of fighting in the show, a lot of combat and of course that needs to be fairly regimented for it to be safe and for it to look good.

NO:  You were born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. In Pig Farm, your character, Tom, is a farm owner. How was that transition for you —from city life to rural?

JEC:   Well, I do have some rural experience in my background. I went to college in Kentucky. I spent a little bit of time on farms, so I am familiar with the rural life, but it is a very different pace, it is a very different way of living, so it is interesting to explore that on the stage.

NO:  Why did you decide to become involved in this production?

JEC:   I knew immediately that it had a great cast, great writer and director, before I even read the play. That was very exciting to me and then when I read it, I thought "Wow, this is amazing, it's unlike anything else." It presents incredible challenges, but also incredible rewards. The potential for this piece is just out of sight.

With Denis O'Hare in Pig Farm
Joan Marcus
NO:  This is your second time with the Roundabout Theatre Company. Rate both experiences.

JEC:   Roundabout treats you well and there is definitely sort of a family feeling.

NO:  There have been some negative reviews. Why do you think the critics are not appreciating this production?

JEC:   I don't read reviews and I try to avoid hearing what they are, but that becomes impossible. So, I don't have any specifics. For me, it's unfortunate, merely in terms of business. We're selling well, so it's not going to be a problem in that way. A lot of audience members will come in with a mindset that makes it more difficult to reach them if they read something negative, and that's unfortunate. Really, I don't care other than that. People are entitled to their opinions.

NO:  It's time for something I call "Three with Nick." I'll mention three "favorites"; tell me the first thing that comes to mind.

Favorite actor: Jim Broadbent.

Favorite thing about New York City: It's a really happening place. There are all sorts of things going on here at all times. If you are a person interested in doing theatre, it is probably the best place to live.

Favorite hot spot: I wouldn't tell you because then it would become overcrowded with all of your fans headed there, so I am going to keep that secret to myself.

NO:  What's next?

JEC:   I have a couple of possibilities: a play that I might do right after this, but it is so close after this, so I may not want to do that. I have some films that will be coming out and one I am working on as one of the producers; it is a super low budget film.

Pig Farm opened off-Broadway on Tuesday, June 27th at the Laura Pels Theatre (111 West 46th Street) and will run through September 3rd. For more information, please visit

-- Nick Orlando

About the author:  Drawing on his diversified experience in radio and television, which ranges from programming to production to reporting, Nick Orlando has recently formed NICO Productions, Inc., an entertainment production company. Nick has worked for SIRIUS Satellite Radio, WCBS-TV, Cox Radio, Saturday Night Live, and Live with Regis and Kelly.

Currently, Nick resides in New York and is working in television programming. In addition, he serves as Entertainment Reporter and Producer for radio, television, and various publications. Nick would like to thank his Producers/Editors Michael Pagnotta and Snezhana Valdman who work behind the scenes making each interview/package possible. He is a member of the International Radio & Television Society Foundation, Inc. (IRTS), New York Press Club, and was recently accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA).

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